I have just wrapped up my first academic year at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am pursuing a Master of Divinity degree and have immensely enjoyed and benefitted from my time at MBTS so far. The year has been great, and I’ve had great opportunities to learn in and out of the classroom. I decided to quickly jot down a few things I’ve learned so far. (Don’t worry: these are mostly un-academic in nature).
1. The local church is more important and vital to my spiritual growth than I knew before. Maybe it’s because I attend a seminary whose vision is literally “For the church”, but this year, I was consistently reminded of how much I need the local church. Thankfully, I was able to be a pastoral intern at a church near my home and soaked up a lot from my pastors. I am thankful to God to be able to sit under the teaching of my elders and leaders in the context of my local church. I truly believe it is enriching to my seminary experience. I cannot imagine my first year of seminary without leaning in to a local church.
2. Theology really does matter. I probably sound like a broken record when I list this, but I cannot say it enough. Theology matters for the everyday life of the believer. What you believe about God, His attributes, salvation, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the church, and more shapes your life more than you know. We are all always doing theology, so these are important matters. Over the last year, my theological views were fine-tuned, challenged, and broadened in many ways, and I was blessed to sit under the teachings of astute theologians and pastors.
3. We ought to be thoroughly hitched to the Old Testament. I was able to take Elementary Hebrew and Old Testament Survey over the course of this year. That means 4 of the 7 classes I took were specifically about the Old Testament. The Old Testament is hardly preached from evangelical pulpits, and is often siphoned off or only covered in children’s “hero story Bibles.” This ought not to be. May our churches become those who love the entire counsel of God’s Word, and may our seminaries continue to send out pastors who preach the entire counsel of God’s Word. I won’t lie, I was and still am a bit unnerved to one day preach the Old Testament consistently. It can be confusing and difficult to apply. But we must not shy away from these beautiful books that tell the story of God redeeming his people and pointing forward to Christ. I am grateful to have been able to sit under an Old Testament professor with theological acumen and a passion to accurately teach the Word of God.
4. Servant leadership is key. So many models of leadership exist, whether they be in bestselling books or spoken about at conferences. However, of all these, leaders should seek to be servants. I was privileged to serve on the Student Leadership team throughout the Spring Semester. On that team, I saw the leaders of my seminary model servant leadership in a powerful way. One of the reasons for an institution’s growth and advancement is the willingness of the leadership to be counted among the “last,” doing so by serving others. I gleaned much from these humble leaders, and am thankful for their willingness to serve, even when no one else is looking. Truly, this is a pastoral implication.
5. Finally, “kiss the wave.” This comes from a quote often attributed to Charles Spurgeon, that great London preacher, who was said to have said: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” This hasn’t been an easy year. My wife and I have faced more suffering and struggling than we ever thought we would. Moving to a new place brings unique struggles for everyone, but finding jobs, working with new schedules, and adjusting to a new church wasn’t easy for us. We thought these things would be the extent of our struggles, but then my father-in-law died. Walking with my precious wife and her family during that process was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I was in the middle of my first semester and felt like I was sinking in an ocean of assignments, financial struggles, and emotional distress. The struggle was real and present and more intense than I ever thought it would be. I came across this quote on Twitter and I wept. My suffering and struggles are meant to bring me closer to the Rock of Ages. I realized – imperfectly – what it means to hide in the cleft of the Rock of Ages. Comfort could not be found in throwing myself into Hebrew or theology books. Comfort could not be found in being more or less social. My comfort could only be found in hiding myself in my Savior.
I hope these have been an encouragement and a challenge to you. I pray that those of you who are considering seminary or theological education will take and read these words and consider the weight of what you might be doing. Though this year has been tough, and I’ve been stretched beyond what I ever thought possible, I cannot imagine myself anywhere else. God is producing lifelong fruit and an eternal joy within me during these formative years in the classroom and in the church. Every class, every sermon, every late night and early morning, every conversation is producing fruit that will come to bear as God allows me to live and pursue the noble task of under-shepherd of the flock of God.